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The History Center blog shares research and findings about local history, excerpts from the History Center Archives, information about upcoming exhibits and other opportunities on how to get involved with The History Center in Tompkins County. To learn more or view the archival materials mentioned, visit us in downtown Ithaca, follow us on social media @TompkinsHistory, or subscribe to our monthly newsletter History Happenings

Highlights from the Collection - the Alms House

Wed, September 27, 2023 4:50 PM | Anonymous

This is the first of an occasional series featuring interesting parts of The History Center's archival collections.

One of the earliest priorities of Tompkins County government when it was first  established was to provide services for the most needy members of the population. New York State legislation spurred the establishment of the county's Alms House (sometimes called the Poor House) to address this need. Beginning in 1829, the County Board of Supervisors oversaw this institution that would serve the community until 1987, when it closed.

Located on Perry City Road in the Town of Ulysses, the Alms House was more than just a home for impoverished residents; it was also a working farm, with 100 acres where able-bodied residents were expected to work. The produce and dairy products grown on the farm were either consumed by the residents or sold. This continued until 1981, when the county legislature voted to end farming operations, and in 1987, after years of declining enrollment and decaying infrastructure, the Alms House formally closed.

The Tompkins County Alms House Collection contains five boxes and several ledgers documenting admissions, discharges, physicians' records, deaths, and other data on indigent members of the community served. General information like annual reports and financial accounts can be found, along with more personal accounts such as personal correspondence and judges' reports on vulnerable individuals.

 To view this collection or for more information email

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